I found this bit of writing when looking through my mother’s photograph album.

The things I miss and the memories I cherish … .

I am an old lady and this is the day before Easter.

We only had one child, a blond-headed baby girl named Phyllis, who we called Dottie as she was very small.

I miss the first bouquets of spring of a few yellow dandelion and perhaps a violet or two, clutched tight in a grubby little hand and given to me in love to put in a vase.

I also miss the May baskets the neighbor’s children hung on our door, who would come in for ice cream and cake afterwards. Now it seems the children don’t have time for the simple joys of life anymore.

I also miss the country schools and the programs put on in the old country church, and the happy little faces when Santa Claus came in.

These are just a few of the things that take me back many years. They were the good old days when we lived on the farm and you had neighbors who cared about you, and would always help each other out, if needed.

We had lots of hard work, but many pleasant memories, never forgotten.

We have lost many dear friends through out the years and made new ones also, but the memories linger on–never to be forgotten.

Now it’s my turn to be the old lady. I too remember

those days as a child on the farm and the country school.


This picture of my husband and I standing in front of the Bloomington Reformed Church the year he was ordained shows a considerable change in clothing people wore to church.

We had lived in Bloomington (our first church) about three or four months when this was taken. Richard is still in his Genevan gown following service. I am wearing a suit I do not remember but would presume to be a neutral light brown, tan, or gray. My hat is red. In the 1960s a woman always wore a hat to church. I am not wearing gloves which were also demanded if you were to be “properly dressed.” I would guess this was taken after the congregation left, so they had been discarded. When I went to church I would also have carried a matching purse. Certainly a new minister’s wife was expected to be properly dressed.


I grew up on an upstate New York dairy farm in the 1940s. An only child, I have always been petite, a nice word for small. Dad certainly could have used a strapping young man to help him care for the herd of 50 to 60 large animals. He hired those men.
Still, no matter what I asked to do, Dad never said, “You can’t do that. You are a girl.” He did say on occasion, “You can try it, but I don’t think you can do that.” It was true, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength.
When I was about twelve, he taught me to drive the doodlebug, which was an old 1929 car, cut in half with no cab that he used for a tractor. Manufacturers who built tractors were turning out tanks during World War II. A standard shift and I had to learn to deal with the clutch and changing gears.
One day I asked to drive our pickup truck on the road. About a mile from home I went around a sharp right hand turn on two wheels. In a normal voice Dad said, “Next time, slow down before the corner.”
After the war, we acquired a tractor which was fun for me to drive. One day I was driving it with the hay wagon and hay loader attached, making it nearly the length of a semi. Twice the same day, I cut the corner in the hay field too short causing the hay loader to catch on the rigging of the wagon. The first time, he called, “Whoa.” The second time, Dad hollered, “Lord, girl, what in hell are you doing?” He fixed the problem and we finished loading the hay with me being more careful to swing wide on corners.
One day, the tractor was on the third story barn floor. I asked to back it out of the barn and down the stone ramp. I climbed on the tractor, started backwards. I had my foot on the clutch and it began rolling. Dad yelled, “Brake!” I slammed on the break just short of going over the side of the ramp. I think Dad took over at that point. But a short time later, we were back in the barn. Dad pointed to the tractor. “Get on.” He climbed up beside me. “Now, back up. Keep your foot off the clutch!”
I’ve driven many vehicles with a standard shift over the past years. Each time the words, “Keep your foot off the clutch!” have kept me from making dangerous moves.
When he had back surgery in 1952, the doctor told him he’d spend most of the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. His response, “To hell I will.” He was never without pain for the next 35 years of his life, and he almost never complained. He just kept moving.
Dad has always been my hero.



I’m confused. Why?

Shopping this afternoon in two of this nation’s popular stores selling all manner of decorations for the home and garden brought me up short.

I was dismayed to discover that I’d missed the seasons of Carnival or Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter, and Spring. I did find remains of Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day in post-holiday clearance.

I was plunged into enjoying Summer with beach towels, plastic pails and shovels, and summer garden flags.

When was the first day of Winter? Was it just 31 days ago? That can’t be right!

When is the Vernal Equinox in 2017? You say March 21? That’s 60 days away. You must be wrong. The Summer Solstice can’t be six months away on June 21. You must be joking!

I’m looking forward to the Autumnal Equinox. It’s only 243 days away. I’m sure the decorations will be out in only a few days. Right?

I’m confused.


A discussion at our monthly consistory (council) meeting at church last night prompted this memory.

My husband, Richard, served the Warsaw International Church in Poland from September 1989 to July 1993. At the time WIC was the only English speaking service offered regularly in the city. Communism had been defeated by ballot in the spring of 1989.Initially, going to church was not easy. The service was held in the secure part of the embassy. Our first Sunday we were guided through the procedure. First we entered the not-as-secure social wing where we had to identify ourselves to the Polish security guards. From there we walked out the back door of that building, down an outside stairway to a door under the guard of a US Marine. There we entered a short space to wait until the first door was secured before thimg116e second door was opened by another Marine. Church was held in the first meeting room off the hallway. Its amenities included chairs and a piano. The lectern normally there had disappeared, so Richard stacked up boxes which he covered with a cloth found in the nearby embassy kitchen.

As you might imagine, the congregation was not large and most people spoke English as their first language. When we first arrived the church primarily served members of the embassies of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, the International School of Warsaw, and other embassies.

We had only just arrived, but at this first service Richard was asked to baptize the newborn twins of Nigerian Ambassador George Ajone and his wife, Onyanta. They were a joy to know and were very kind to us during their tenure in Warsaw.

When we arrived little throughout the country had changed. But change came quickly in Warsaw and everywhere with the end of state control. Foreign businesses came in by droves. WIC changed its meeting place first to the Marine bar and then to the Lutheran Seminary in the Old Town, where it continues today.




What does it mean to be generous?

I was recently given a flyer about creating a congregational culture of generosity. As far as I could determine it was primarily about money, engaging the members and caring for the members to grow a larger sense of stewardship and the church budget. I’m nostock-photo-luxury-watch-isolated-on-a-white-background-103887638t against this, but I think there is more to being a generous person.

The Biblical basis of the program and of our lives is that all comes from God, so in thanks we give back those things we’ve been given.

What is the one thing we all have the most of? TIME

What is generosity of time?

Standing in a checkout lane with a basket full of items and a person behind you holds one or two things in their hand and you quickly step aside to let them go first? A gift of a few minutes.

The driver who stops to let you move into traffic from a side street is generously giving you a moment of their time.

The store clerk who must call assistance and wait for help? What’s happening to her blood pressure? Letting the clerk know you are sorry for her wait, but do not blame her is being generous. Offer a quiet comment? “It’s been a long day?” Or “It’s busy here today.” Or “Are you nearly finished work?”

One day I was shopping when a woman holding an address book said, “a gift for a teacher?” I responded “I rather have an ornament or something to eat.” We chatted for a few minutes. She was stressed out and needed to talk. She thanked me for listening. Those few minutes enriched my day.

Then there is the opposite of giving time and one of my favorite peeves.

It is a driver dashing back and forth across lanes to be first at the next stop light. If they are not going at least fifty miles, speeding will get that person to their destination only seconds earlier than if they’d stayed within the speed limit and in a single lane. I always want to ask, “What are you going to do with those nine seconds?” It’s not even time enough to take a deep breath.

The next time you are in a hurry, think about what you will do with any time you save or perhaps if you slow down something or someone will touch your life in a way you would have missed by hurrying.

What are other small ways to be generous with your time?


Revise, revise, revise. That is the mantra of editors. I’ve thought my novel was finished. It has been revised and revised.

A few weeks ago no one was prepared with a manuscript to read at our writers group. A number of prompts were tossed out to us. I chose “Have one of your characters tell you (the author) why they are upset with you.”

What came out was a minor character spewing forth all manner of complaints. Freddie said all I did was say he was a pest that caused trouble. He wanted me to know that he doesn’t like his home and family much. He has two little sisters and a baby brother and he has to take care of them. Their house so small he has to share a bed with his sisters.

No one cares about him. He’d rather spend time at Johnny’s house up the road. Johnny’s mother makes better stuff to eat too.

After listening to Freddie’s tirade, I feel he deserves more space and recognition in my novel.

Freddie has left me no choice. I must revise, yet again.


Is it the coming end of summer marked by the opening of school? Is it the ripening of the decorative grasses putting up their seed heads, notifying me they are finished growing?

The porch boxes are overflowing with plants, including one with fresh lettuce waiting to be pulled. After months of slow growth, my caladiums are in full leaf, but they won’t survive a frost.IMG_20160822_115930

My kitchen counter was covered with ripe tomatoes that I waited all summer for those plants to produce. Now they have been reduced to juice for the winter.

Everything seems to have come to fruition. Why do I sit here feeling apathetic?

Evenings are shorter, morning comes later.

Perhaps it is simply I’m not ready to transition to autumn and winter.

How do you feel with a change in seasons?




I’ve been watching a TV show, TAXI  BROOKLYN. In it a taxi is a young woman detective’s driver because she has totaled her police car for the second time. In the process, the driver helps and cares about the detective.

This morning I thought about my taxi driver in Warszawa when we lived there between 1989 and1993. Why was I living there? My husband, Richard was serving as pastor of the Warsaw International Church (English language).

After getting a job as a teacher in the American School of Warsaw, my choices for getting to the school: making Richard take me and pick me up, interrupting his work; walking, which was quite unsafe on the heavy trafficked streets to say nothing of carrying a twenty or thirty pound basket of books back and forth; buying a car, which meant costs of the car, insurance and finding a place to keep an extra vehicle.

None of those seemed like a good idea. Instead I hired Krzysztof*, a licensed taxi driver who chose to mostly provide private services. He drove students to and from the school and was called by a host of people who counted on him to take them where they wanted to go.

Every morning between 7:30 and 7:45, I’d look out of my third story window and see a white Mercedes was waiting for me. As he drove me to school, I learned to speak a little Polish and he learned more English. After three years, I was totally conversant on the weather, whether it was sunny, rainy, snowy, windy, cold or warm.

But Krzysztof did so much more for me. He always had a smile when he greeted me each morning. After the fall of Communism in Poland, open markets abounded. I asked him to stop one fall evening on my way home. He could have done just that—let me get out of the car and wait while I shopped. Instead Krzysztof went with me.

“Kilo gruszka, prosze,” I said to the man behind his fruit and vegetable stand.

The man put several pears on the scale and started to put them in my bag when Krzysztof, who had been standing beside me, said something to the man, who added a pear to my bag. He had watched the man carefully. Whether weighed his thumb or the scale was short, Krzysztof made sure I was not cheated.

I was given two pieces of semi-precious stone by the South African ambassador to Poland. One morning I gave Krzysztof one of the pieces with a silver chain I had and explained I’d like the stone attached to the chain. About a week later he handed me my new piece of jewelry.  It remains one of my favorite necklaces.

My husband, who did most of the shopping while I was working, had heart surgery in August 1992. I needed to return to Warsaw before he was healed.  Company was coming for dinner. When could I buy the needed groceries. Krzysztof took my list that morning and returned to pick me up from school with everything I requested.

Often when Krzysztof drove us to the airport early in the morning, there was a bread line at the people’s favorite bakery.

Early in the fall of Communism , there were pictures of bread lines in US newspapers. What I learned is that Poles bought bread first thing in the morning and then again in the afternoon. The bread did not have preservatives and didn’t last but a day or so. The bread stores could only fit three or four people in them at a time because they were only a bit larger than a walk-in closet. Twenty people wanting to buy bread at about the same time made a line out the door.


Shortly before we left Poland in 1993, Richard and I wanted to visit the Teutonic Malbork Castle built in the thirteenth century. Constructed of red brick, it is one of the largest castles in Europe. We didn’t want to drive. Krzysztof drove us, but also acted as our personal guide by interpreting signs in Polish.

Twenty-odd years later, the postman brings me a greeting card postmarked “WARSAWA” at least once a year. I treasure each one. Krzysztof is a true friend.

*Krzysztof, pronounced “Crshish-tof”, is equivalent to Christopher in English.


Granpa Levi Miles Jr.

After dedicating four das to finding gravestones around eastern part and the southern tier New York State, I think my genealogy itch has been scratched.

My daughter and I scrambled up and down the hilly cemeteries in McClure, Deposit, Hambletville, and New York City reservoir land.

The last to me was the most interesting simply because it contains all the graves had been disinterred and reburied to allow the dams and reservoirs to be built to take water to New York City. Two dams were built in the southern tier to back up the water from the east and west branches of the Delaware River.

Land, where people lived, loved, married, had children, went to school and church, farmed, milked cows, ran tractors, sold groceries, medicines, and ice cream, is now under water. In years of drought, foundations of building can be seen in the low water levels.

The newest of the dams is Cannonsville. When I was in high school, many students came from there. If a snow storm which looked like it was going to pile up quickly came, the Cannonsville students would be the first ones dismissed and put on buses to go home. It was the longest of the school bus runs.

In each of the cemeteries we found stones of my grandparents. One pair of stones mark the graves of my third great grandparents( born in 1789 and 1790) and fifth generation great grandparents for my young grandsons.

So for now, I’ve scratched that itch—until the next time.

Pictures: top, Levi Miles Jr., greatgrandfather; middle, Obadiah M. & Mary Ann Culver Neff, greatgrandparents; Ernest C. & Nancy Annette Miles Neff, grandparents.


Ernest C. & Nancy Annette Miles Neffm